Blackfeet beader draws inspiration from talented children
By CAROL BRADLEY
Photos by DARRIN SCHREDER
On a typical evening, Jackie Larson Bread and her teenage daughter, Jade, will be working alongside one another in the living room of their Great Falls home – Jackie sewing a string of beads onto a square of smoked buckskin, Jade outlining a geometric horse with oil-based pencils - when all of a sudden, mother will turn to daughter and say “I’m stuck. What do I do with this?”
Chances are that, without the advice of her 16-year-old, Jackie would find a way to muddle through. After 30 years, she has more than mastered the art of beadworking. Her portraits of Blackfeet ancestors and time-honored tribal designs have earned her a pile of awards – more than 90 at last count – and wide renown in Native American art circles.
But probing the artistic instincts of her children is something she likes to do. There’s a bit of calculated wisdom in asking for feedback from Jade and her brother, Paris, 23, who’s studying media arts at the University of Montana. Paris now sees that being asked his opinion has helped him develop a sense of confidence about his own work, a feeling that what he thinks matters.
“Taking something that has no meaning and giving it meaning,” he said, “is what I’ve been taught my whole life.”
To read the entire feature on Jackie Larson Bread, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Spirits and brews of the Big Sky
Story and photos by Jessica Lowry
When Clarence John Montgomery returned to his Hilger ranch each evening after a long day working, his family remembers him sitting down in the old farmhouse’s worn kitchen so he could pour himself his favorite drink, a few fingers of Johnnie Walker Red old scotch whiskey and 7UP.
Over the years, Clarence’s hard work raising cattle and growing wheat, oats and barley grew into an expansive agricultural business that included seven ranches, stretching outside from Hilger south to Lewistown and across the Hi-Line and Central Montana.
Until he passed in 2013, his drink of choice remained the same.
What Clarence probably didn’t know is that his business acumen – close ties to the land and love of a well-made drink – would influence the career paths of not just one, but two of his 18 grandchildren.
Today, Evan Bowser, 29, as the owner of Bowser Brewing Company in Great Falls, and his cousin, Ryan Montgomery, 36, as the head of Montgomery Distillery in Missoula, operate businesses pouring finely crafted brews and spirits created from ingredients mostly found in Montana.
To read the entire feature on Montgomery Distillery and Bowser Brewing, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Tranquil Retreat: Thompson River Chain of Lakes
By GORDON and CATHIE SULLIVAN
A blanket of early morning fog hung in the air around us as we waited for the loons to wake up. Cathie bobbed quietly in her kayak about 100 feet from me, sipping warm coffee from an insolated mug, all the time her ear fixed toward a tiny island where the loons had built their nest.
There are not many places left in our busy world where the call of loons can still be heard, still relied on like clock work or the return of yesterday’s sun. But in northwest Montana the common loons – with their piercing ruby eyes and tuxedo-like black and white capes – have returned to Lower Thompson Lake every spring in recent memory.
The lake is a part of one Montana’s best kept secrets: The Thompson River Chain of Lakes. Like a brilliant string of emeralds, the lakes thread throughout 3,000 heavily forested acres pressed between the Salish Mountains to the north and the rugged Cabinet Mountains to the south.
Ready, Set, Go!: To the Thompson River Chain of Lakes
This set of 18 lakes can be found along Montana State Highway 2, sitting between Kalispell and Libby. The site includes 83 primitive campsites and 8 group campsites, all of which require a fee for overnight camping. Roads are primitive and not recommended for motor homes and large trailers. However, the 22 developed campsites at Logan State Park, located on Middle Thompson Lake, are suitable for large camping units.
To read the entire feature on the Thompson River Chain of Lakes, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Horses, trainers at Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding offer more than just time
By BRETT BERNSTEN
Photos by LIDO VIZZUTTI
On their first day in the arena after a long, harsh winter, the horses at Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding carry extra weight. Their bellies bulge from lazy, hay-filled days. Their saddle straps stretch to the outermost notches. But their largest loads, the ones they were carefully selected to burden, sit on top.
Astride a beige mare named Tonah, Abbie Jessop leads the exercise. Despite being born with cerebral palsy and nearly deaf, the 18-year-old Pinesdale resident rides independently.
She steers the patient mare next to a metal rack holding plastic rings. Reaching up with a shaky hand, she spears a ring and drops it onto a nearby cone like a gaucho in training.
Cheers erupt from her two instructors, Ernie Purcelli and Mary Cline. Jessop beams proudly.
“Does she want to keep riding?” Purcelli asks.
Cline relays the message through sign language and receives an immediate response.
“That’s a stupid question Ernie,” Cline said smiling. “She wants to ride like a cowboy.”
The scene marks another successful session at BTR.
For the past 14 years, the nonprofit has provided equine-assisted therapy for the disabled, joining a fast-growing field gaining acceptance from medical authorities. BTR is one of 850 centers around the world, including six others in Montana, certified by the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International, or PATH Intl.
While therapeutic horseback riding has roots tracing back to ancient Greece, BTR Program Director Linda Olson said recent scientific studies lend credence to the method’s physical and mental benefits.
At the basic level, Olson explains, horses and humans share a similar stride. Riding stimulates nerve endings, supplying blood to multiple muscle groups in the rhythm and timing of a natural gate.
For Jessop, her cerebral palsy causes her muscles to overcompensate, throwing her off-balance. When she first started attending BTR at the age of 6, she was confined to a wheelchair. Now, after 12 years of regular sessions, Jessop walks unassisted and even helps saddle up before rides.
“She’s relaxed,” said Jessop’s mother, Robyn Warner. “It’s evened her out.”
BTR caters to a group of people with a range of disabilities, from disorders such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome, to physical challenges like muscular dystrophy and paralysis. But more than tangible benefits, the center offers an experience not available in any clinic.
Nestled among hills overlooking the jagged Bitterroot Mountains outside Corvallis, BTR provides a distinct home-on-the-range feel. A pack of farm dogs greet visitors with reckless enthusiasm. The sounds and smell of livestock fill the air. Hawks frolic among the updrafts surging through the valley.
It’s a foray into a tranquil realm where the pleasures of horsemanship soften the daunting realities surrounding disabilities.
BTR was founded in 2000, when two women who had attended a national convention on therapeutic horseback riding suggested forming a center in the covered arena on Linda and Donald Olson’s ranch.
The proposal came out of the blue for the Olsons. Donald runs the oldest bronze foundry in the Northwest, while Linda’s background ranges from fashion modeling in Beverly Hills to becoming one of the first female workers on the Alaska Pipeline.
But being horse lovers with the proper venue, the couple jumped on board. And although she had “no clue” about working with the disabled, Linda spearheaded the operation.
As program director, Olson runs BTR with a personality as bold as the view from her back door. She constantly mixes up the names of her students, and then atones for her mistake with a heartfelt shoulder squeeze or hair mussing.
“I’m the granny,” said Olson, who raised six children of her own. “I’ve seen a lot of these kids grow up around here.”
For the many of BTR’s all-volunteer staff, the job serves as soul-satisfying segue from previous occupations.
“This is the most rewarding work you can do,” said Ernie Purcelli, BTR’s lead instructor.
Purcelli entered the field from the rough and tumble world of competitive horsemanship. He roped in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for 11 years and was first introduced to the therapeutic side of riding while working as a horse trainer in Illinois. During his initial volunteer sessions, Purcelli experienced breakthroughs that hooked him for life.
“I’ve seen kids speak their first words,” he said. “Their parents were waiting in the stands with tears in their eyes.”
Purcelli joined BTR’s team after moving to Darby in 2003. He has since attained certification from PATH Intl. and has served as BTR’s lead instructor for the past three years.
His commitment is a labor of love. He volunteers up to four days a week at BTR and his lone certification keeps the center accredited.
But whatever soft spots Purcelli might have, once in the arena he reverts to his rodeo roots. There’s no babying in his lessons. If a student makes a mistake or misses a turn, Purcelli urges them to try again.
“I’m not a physical therapist,” he said. “I’m a riding instructor.”
Purcelli sets longterm goals for riders. For Jessop, it’s to show horses. For another girl, it’s to barrel race. This matter-of-fact approach augments the styles of other BTR volunteers.
“It’s sort of a combination between cowboy and mommy,” said Mary Cline, a consultant who specialized in hearing disabilities. “I’m more the nurturing one.”
But no matter how hard the instructors at BTR work together to create a supportive atmosphere, the other half of the staff often steals the show.
With the charm and disposition of a family dog, the 15 or so horses at BTR provide the perfect remedy for their riders.
“They are the most sensitive creatures,” Purcelli said. “It might sound crazy, but a horse can feel a fly on their butt.”
BTR receives all its horses through donation, but typically only one in 20 have the temperance needed to work with the disabled.
“This is very monotonous work for a horse,” said Purcelli. “You need ones that are pretty strong.”
Tonah, a Norwegian Fjord, fits the mold perfectly. As a small draft horse, she can carry heavy loads yet isn’t tall, making it easy to mount and dismount. Moreover, she has the calm, patient demeanor necessary for long days in the arena.
Tonah came to BTR on loan, but Olson said she’s so well suited for the work she’ll probably live out the rest of her days at the center. For Tonah and the rest of the horses, BTR acts as an equine retirement home of sorts, complete with endless attention and appreciation.
Cory Stalling, a 13-year-old boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, tries to get as much saddle time as possible.
“He wants to ride a different horse every time,” said Stalling’s mother Chris. “He thinks they’re like sports cars.”
For Sequoia Fitzpatrick the bond reaches deeper. Her autism makes it hard to concentrate, but when riding a horse she focuses on the task at hand.
Fitzpatrick’s mother Jessica said after Sequoia’s first riding session she fell asleep on the car ride home, a rare event for the rambunctious 9-year-old.
“I think it fills her sensory cup,” Fitzpatrick says. “I love it. I just know the peace it brings her.”
That sense of serenity permeates all those involved with BTR. It’s in the eyes of the horses, the words of the instructors and the smiles of the students.
During a break in the day’s riding sessions, Olson takes time to reflect on BTR’s path to success. She sits in her house a short drive down a dirt road from the arena. A wood stove heats a kettle of water in the corner. The snow-capped Bitterroots shine vividly through the living room window.
Despite growing steadily during the past 14 years, Olson says BTR still experiences significant financial hardships plaguing the industry. Although medical professionals are embracing the benefits of therapeutic riding, insurance agencies have yet to come around.
BTR sponsors students through scholarship programs and accepts Medicaid through Home and Community Based Services, but often it’s a struggle to scrape up enough funds.
“It’s usually me with my hand out, writing grants and hitting up my friends,” Olson said, adding with a laugh, “who now have started to run away from me.”
What support BTR does receive, though, comes in waves of selfless generosity. Fellow equestrians donate extra riding gear. Neighbors pitch in around the arena, leading horses and shoveling up waste. Even in tough times, community members give what they can.
Olson leafs through a photo album of BTR over the years. Her eyes light up as she goes from picture to picture, mirroring the elation on the pages. She looks as if she’s reliving the experiences again, journeying back down a path built on kindness and sympathy.
“There’s so much good around,” she said, her voice trailing into reverie. “When people start complaining about the government and this and that, I just can’t get on board.”
She smiles and gazes out the living room window.
“Just look at this,” she said, gesturing toward a scene where craggy peaks tower over a pair of horses grazing on the first grasses of spring. “Just look at what happens up there in the arena.”
To read more stories, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Montana Territory celebrates 150 years
By JESSE ZENTZ
The place we now call Montana faced an uncertain future when it gained territorial status 150 years ago, but what would eventually become known as the Treasure State held great promise in 1864.
Gold was king in bustling mining communities like Bannack and Virginia City, which pulsed with activity; while today’s larger cities were in their infancy or were simply nonexistent.
Vigilantes played the role of judge, jury and executioner. In a span of less than two months bridging 1863 and 1864, the Montana Vigilantes hanged 24 men as they ruthlessly wiped out Bannack Sheriff Henry Plummer’s gang, which killed more than 100 people and robbed countless others.
Agriculture only began to take root in places like the Gallatin Valley in an effort to support the expanding mining communities, but the territory’s isolation and other factors limited growth.
American Indians – Montana’s original residents – felt the initial squeeze of substantial white settlement and delicate treaties were often ignored by many homesteaders or settlers distracted by the thought of striking it rich.
Want to know more about Montana history? Here’s a recommended reading list:
Montana 1864, by Kenneth Egan (due out in September 2014), explores the year Montana became a territory in detail, giving special attention to tribal nations.
Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome, by Joseph Kinsey Howard, is a history book about Montana, but often reads like a novel and provides readers with detailed descriptions and a unique take on this state’s past.
The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology, edited by William Kittredge and Annick Smith, features a compilation of some of the very best writing about Montana, which is home to a surprising number of true literary artists.
Montana Territory and the Civil War, by Ken Robison, introduces readers to many of the people touched by the Civil War who populated Montana, demonstrating the incredible impact the events in the eastern United States had on the territory and state.
Montana: A History of Two Centuries, by Michael P. Malone, Richard B Roeder, William L. Lang, offers a general but comprehensive textbook-style history of Montana.
Territorial Politics and Government in Montana 1864-89, by Clark C. Spence, offers a close look at Montana’s early political landscape that eventually led to statehood in 1889.
Montana: An Uncommon Land, by K. Ross Toole, provides another take on Montana history that’s as enjoyable to read as it is informative.
Still need more about the Montana of 1864? Here’s some other resources:
Montana Historical Society
Founded only a year after Montana became a territory, the Montana Historical Society is an unrivaled historical resource. Located in Helena, the Montana Historical Society Museum is home to an incredible collection of fine art and historical artifacts. You can visit the museum throughout the year. Learn more online at www.MontanaHistoricalSociety.org.
At www.HumantiesMontana.com, you can find information about events happening throughout the state, learn about a variety of grants and resources available, and much more.
Your local library
Montana’s libraries are full of amazing collections about Montana history, and thanks to a great online resource at www.MyMontanaLibrary.com, finding your local library is only a couple mouse clicks away. Most of the books mentioned above are available, along with many others.
To read the entire feature on Montana Territory’s 150th anniversary, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
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- Contact – *Steve Stelling (cell:406-544-9029)
I will live there one day if at all possible!
From Shelley Burke, sent on Jan. 1, 2014
Hello and Happy New Year! My name is Shelley Burke. I’m originallyfrom upstate New York but have lived in Charlotte, N.C., for over 30 years.
I traveled out west for the 1st time when I was 15. I immediately fell in love with the West and to this day it feels like home when I’m there. I’ve made several trips to various places out West and into Canada but NOTHING will EVER compare to my trip this past September to Montana/Glacier National Park.
Montana is my new love and I will live there one day if at all possible! I have thought about my trip EVERY single day since September and just can’t get it out of my mind. My mother shared the experience with me and for Christmas, she got me subscription to your magazine. I just finished reading my first one! Love it
I attached some pictures from Glacier. I’m certainly no professional but I love taking pictures and find it so relaxing. There is so much beauty in our country, but nothing like what I saw there. Have a great day! Look forward to my next magazine!
Montana is Calling
Sent by Janet Imogene Hansen Fulkerson, on Nov. 21, 2013
Dear Montana Magazine,
Please find below a poem about Montana written in 2012 by my mother, the late Imogene Z. Hansen.
She died earlier this month at age 86 in my home in the state of Indiana.
I discovered the poem below on her computer AFTER she died when I was “cleaning out” files. Imogene resided in Montana 63 years, and lived in the same house in Helena for more than 50 of those.
Poor health caused her to move here so that I could care for her as her Parkinson’s disease progressed.
Attached is a 1954 photo of Imogene and her husband Bruce Hansen, holding my sister, Susan Marie, and a truck load of furniture made by Imogene’s father in Louisville, Kentucky. The young family was on its way back to Helena, where they were living in the basement of an unfinished house while Bruce was building the house next door that became their home from 1954 to 2010.
Bruce was the son of first-generation immigrants from Denmark. His parents started in a sod house in the middle of Grant (nowhere), Mont., then moved to Butte, where his father worked in a copper mine and died of silicosis.
Bruce, one of the “greatest generation”, came back from the U.S. Navy after WWII and worked hard to build a better life for his family. Imogene had a career a teacher in the Helena school system. Together, they raised three children who share their parent’s love for the state of Montana.
Montana Is Calling
By Imogene Hansen
September 17, 2012
My heart’s in Montana; my heart is not here.
It’s in Big Sky Country so high, wide, and clear.
From the mountains and prairies that I loved to roam
Montana is calling, and I want to go home.
I miss Montana which is far, far from here
where the earth is too flat and the sky seldom clear.
I miss the Chinook winds and the miles of fresh snow
where the sun will be shining at twenty below.
I want to be back in my Helena home,
walk down Last Chance Gulch, see the Capitol dome
while the giant who sleeps guards the valley below
where I’ll lie at peace when it’s my time to go.
I’d like to watch deer eat my flowers and grass,
see antelope run through the fields as I pass,
spot a lone elk or bear that might drift into town,
gaze at glorious skies when the sun’s going down.
I long to see places where tamaracks tall
turn from beautiful green to bright gold in the fall,
where summer brings wild flowers to each mountain side
and the bitterroots bloom when spring greets the divide.
I need to smell mountain air pristine and pure,
watch mountain goats scamper on feet swift and sure,
hear bugling elk call in the crisp autumn air,
feel the soft touch of snowflakes on my face and hair.
In Montana great glories of nature are found
and in Glacier and Yellowstone Parks they abound
where the Going-to-the-Sun and the Beartooth climb high
to the top of the world where the earth meets the sky.
Montana has prairies that roll like the sea
with Canada geese flying high in a v.
It has Northern Lights dancing across the night sky
and snow geese at Freezeout Lake waiting to fly.
It has riches in minerals deep underground,
and gold on the Highline in wheat fields is found.
I long to return each time I feel it call
for truly it is the “last, best place” of all.